Ted Arnott, MPP
Wellington – Halton Hills
Mr. Arnott gave the following remarks about former MPP
Elizabeth Witmer in Kitchener on May 2, 2012
It’s great to be here and it’s a real honour to have the chance to speak to you on
behalf of our PC Caucus. There are a whole bunch of us here, and more on the
You know, President Kennedy used to tell a story about a Gallup poll which
found that mothers still wanted their children to grow up to be President of the
United States, as long as they didn’t have to get involved in politics!
Elizabeth Witmer is someone who gives politics a good name. She is truly an
exceptional person, who has inspired everyone around her by her passionate
commitment to public service.
I wish you could have been there on Monday morning to hear the tribute to
Elizabeth in the Legislature.
At the very first available opportunity after we heard the news that Elizabeth was
retiring, all three party leaders – Tim Hudak, Dalton McGuinty and Andrea
Horwath – rose in the House to pay tribute to the Ontario Legislature’s finest
member. It was unprecedented, but it was just as fitting as it was appropriate.
I know I speak for her friends on all sides of the House when I say thank you,
Elizabeth; and we wish you well as you assume your new leadership
responsibilities as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. You’re
going to do great things there.
Last week, putting her family first, Elizabeth announced that after 32 consecutive
years serving the people of Ontario in elected office, the time had come for her to
retire from the Legislature.
And what a career she’s had there!
Deputy Premier, Minister of Health, Education, Environment, and Labour – “all
the easy ones,” as she once said. In opposition, Deputy Leader, House Leader,
Caucus Chair, and Critic of some of those same important responsibilities.
All this, after a decade on the Waterloo Public School Board, half of that time as
And when facing adversity, inspired by her Christian faith, the love and support of
Cam, Scott, Sarah, and the rest of her family, her friends, her staff — all of us
here tonight — Elizabeth always had the strength to overcome every challenge,
and no matter how difficult the day, still give you a smile that’s as bright as the
Her stamina is legendary, but I know she’d agree, it was the support you gave
her that helped her go the extra mile.
She was always a political trailblazer, demonstrating that women are, in every
measure, the equal of men when it comes to political leadership.
She also leaves the Legislature having made Ontario history, as the longest
serving woman MPP ever, with an elegance, class, and style rarely seen in
Once recognized by the Toronto Star as the hardest working MPP in the House,
her work was also defined by her compassion for people, and a practical,
collaborative approach to getting things done.
She would work across party lines and never let partisanship get in the way of
accomplishing her goals and those of her community.
She was never defined by her Party, but at its best, our Party was defined by her.
Political parties are sometimes too partisan. She put people first.
Some say that our party is the one with the hard edges. She softened them.
To some, at times we seem too ideological. She was practical and sensible.
And sometimes it’s said that we lack compassion. She showed us her heart.
For her work, Ontario is a much better place. Our health care is better. Our
schools are better. Our universities and our colleges are better. Our economy is
stronger and our environment is cleaner.
She accomplished big things for Waterloo Region, like the hospital improvements
and support for the universities and college expansions.
But she was never too busy to help anyone she could with their individual issues
and problems. I think of the McFadyen family and their little son Issac, who
needed life saving medication, and what she did to convince the Government to
do the right thing.
And the way she championed the free flu shot, which has saved thousands of
lives since she introduced it a decade ago.
And the work she did with the registered nurses, and all the health stakeholder
groups who she enjoyed working with so much.
I’ve never known anyone with her strength of character and firmness of purpose
in perfect balance with her sense of caring for people. Her energy and
commitment to do the best job possible as your representative were second to
She’s the one indispensible member.
Having been privileged to serve with Elizabeth for the past 22 years, I know that
when my career at Queen’s Park is finished, and people ask me what it was like,
I will start my story with, “I served with Elizabeth Witmer”.
As her friends, my wife, Lisa, and I are saddened by her departure, but we are so
happy for the Witmer family.
I know that all of us in the Legislature who admired her and the way she served
Ontario, are ready to accept the torch she passes to us.
Thank you Elizabeth and God bless you.